Data-Driven Decision Making to Improve Resilience
There is a dire need for a culture change within EMS, and it begins with a focus and education on resilience.
At its core resilience is the ability for one to overcome tough or stressful situations or circumstances quickly. It is the ability for one to bounce back into shape and not let unusual or stressful situations negatively affect their lives.
Some of us are more naturally resilient than others; however, it is widely known that resilience can also be fostered and learned over time. This, we firmly believe, is a core component to one’s success for longevity within the EMS industry because EMS providers who are resilient can more easily rebound into their much-needed roles, bounce back from adverse experiences, and can more easily adapt to changes within their environment.
The National Survey on EMS Mental Health Services published in 2016 found that approximately 37% of EMS organizations provided no mental health support for their EMS providers and 42% of the participating organizations provided no health and wellness services. It continued to reveal that amongst those organizations who provided counseling or resources (such as EAPs), many of the providers were hesitant to participate and share their struggles due to an inherent fear of being perceived as weak or unfit for duty.
So how can your data help build and support resilient providers?
There are many ways that your organization can help being the process of building a resilient workforce. The first of which is to simply talk about the need for it.
Talk about the need for resilience
When we say this, we don’t mean by its definition, rather, by informing your providers that you are merely aware of the toll that their calling takes on them. Calling attention to the rapid responses, the back-to-back calls, the stressors of the critical and non-critical responses. Simply alerting providers to the awareness you have of their daily activities will aid in their ability to feel heard and understood. Regular reliable feedback to your providers is the easiest way to accomplish this task. But which feedback should you be sharing? What should you and your team members be aware of on a regular basis?
Which data is best for resilience awareness?
There are many data sets an organization may choose to use for alerting their providers to their awareness of the need for improved resilience; however, we have narrowed down a slight few that would be best to start with:
The ability for an organization to keep track of how many responses each provider is making can reveal a world of information. Furthermore, the providers’ consciousness of this can spark a need for improvements and awareness within themselves. A high number of responses by a crew per shift can lead to stress and decreased resilience in many ways from regular shift stress, season changes (because we all know that we are busier during the summer months), to more severe problems such as fatigue or burnout. For example, if a crew is taking 45 minutes at destination, it could either be due to a stressful call or simply due to burnout/fatigue/frustrations within the system. These outliers should always indicate that an open and relaxed discussion, regardless of the perceived cause, is needed with the crew.
Chart Completion Time:
The awareness of the average time it takes for your providers to complete their documentation is paramount to your perception of shift productivity. Providers who begin taking an excessively long amount of time to complete their documentation may be reluctant to complete their tasks due to a lack of ability to confront their responses “on paper,” or it could show you a response that was technically difficult for the provider to document. A provider who takes 4 hours to complete a routine transfer chart could easily be an indicator for you as someone who is indifferent, but more importantly, it should be an indicator for you as someone who may be overburdened by their workload.
Time and Attendance:
The ability for the organization, and the provider, to actively see their punctuality and attendance habits is vital to not only the success of the organization but to the mental wellbeing and resilience of the provider. Our instincts as EMS administrators who notice that a provider is suddenly clocking in at the last minute can lead to thoughts of a team member who is indolent or non-punctual. This can definitely be true; however, it is better approached from a perspective of an administrator or leader who can quickly pinpoint the beginning stages of burnout or the inability to cope with the stressors of the job.
To sum it all up…
This is just a beginning list of data points that can be used within your organization to help start the conversation of resilience awareness and improvement. These can lead to many avenues of resources for the provider which would be highly beneficial not only for them but for the organization as well. As a final note, always remember that when discussing these situations with your providers one should be open, non-confrontational, and non-judgmental to achieve the most productive outcome. Keep in mind, these providers perform their roles daily, no one knows precisely what their job entails better than them, and their opinions, thoughts, and feelings should be trusted and validated. An open and accepting environment in which the providers feel that they are honestly heard, and not judged first, is one of strong resilience.
Our goal with this article is to provide you with some of the most common challenges that EMS organizations face when seeking to develop embracive and rich high-performance cultures and to offer practical solutions that will help you overcome them. You now have the tools and techniques that will help you improve your organizations: feedback, performance review, and resilience.